girls' girl's girls girl

a small collection of thoughts on female friendship and competition.

girls' girl's girls girl

When I was in middle school I posted a facebook status that was, in a thinly veiled way, about one of my best friends in the world. It was quoting jealous girl anthem "Girl Next Door" by Saving Jane. The song itself is a more self aware but just as mean spirited sister to Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me." In a lot of ways it's more honest than Taylor's teenage pick me anthem.

I don't remember what middle school drama had occurred to make me sit down at whatever computer I was using to access Facebook at the time, but the scene finds 11 or 12 year old me typing the words, "everybody loves her but I just wanna hit her."

Of course, my friend didn't deserve it– though she would win prom queen years later so I can't say it wasn't aesthetically fitting, just unfair and mean spirited. I think she confronted me about it. We worked it out and I was pretty instantly embarrassed to have let jealousy overtake the knowledge that the stuff I was jealous of– her endless likability and kindness and natural magnetism– were, obviously, part of why she'd been my friend for so long. It's almost entirely why we're still friends and why I still know and see a lot of people I grew up with. I went to her wedding last fall where she married a man she'd been with for 10 years. Not to make it about me, but that guy was my date to sophomore (?) year homecoming.

I remember she texted me a while after that guy and I had (very amicably, naturally) broken up and asked if it was okay with her dating him. At the time I laughed because I truly didn't care, but it's funny to think middle school me would have lost her mind. My friend is just too ... nice! She's too kind! She's too thoughtful! Fuck off!

I've thought about that Facebook status a lot especially in the last couple years where this idea of being A Girls' Girl has come to the forefront of the way a lot of people talk online. It's an idea that says you should act in the name of sisterhood first. It's been sort of shifted and co-opted into something weird as it became the more morally pure way to perceive oneself as a woman– the antithesis of the being a "pick me" or of centering men in your life.

When I was moving back to Chicago I found myself anxious about being in proximity to a lot of people– mostly women– that I'd known since I was very young. Over the time I'd been gone, two things happened that would be the stuff of nightmares for a teenage version of myself.

  1. I dropped out of law school. I can say I believe it was the right choice– I've said it a thousand times on this blog alone. It was really the only choice for that past version of myself that was coping with living under pandemic lockdown with a partner who sexually assaulted me, but that doesn't erase part of me that's insecure about it. A lot of my friends from high school have some form of advanced degree or high paying job and when I find myself in closer proximity to them I do feel worse. I do feel insecure. Part of that is just an extension of my teenage inferiority I always felt toward the people I was friends with. Part of it is knowing I've filled my time with something that is kind of niche and hard to understand. Do you want to hear about the thing I wrote for Stereogum? You don't know what that is? Okay nevermind.
  2. I gained weight. I'm not proud to admit that it would have destroyed me when I was younger to have gained any weight at all. When I was younger, I had an eating disorder, but I was also relentlessly cruel in the way I thought about my body and the way I thought about other women's bodies. I'm also not proud to admit that because it was all about me and how insecure I felt, but it doesn't make the thoughts I had any less cruel. Being around people I knew makes me feel that pressure a past version of myself felt to look a certain way and fit in aesthetically with the girls I knew– even if it just exists in my head

As I've seen friends of mine from when I was younger, it becomes obvious this stuff is all in my head. They are kind and they are fully realized people.

Something about recognizing the cruelty in my younger self’s mentality toward women is that it also helped me realize that what I was feeling was just jealousy— jealousy in confidence maybe, jealousy of their bodies, jealousy in the way they dressed. Probably also pure horror in the face of the knowledge that I was destroying myself for the momentary satisfaction of feeling superior to some other women. To say it was a competitive mindset wouldn’t be wrong, but I'd rather call it just insecure and jealous and shitty. When I think of women I feel competitive with now, I try to remember that instead– this is about me and my feelings, not about them.

So much of what I find frustrating about Girls' Girl content online ends up being because I think it doesn't reflect the actual intimacy of my female friendships or even professional acquaintances. It so often eschews the intrinsic intimacy of female friendships in favor of quips about how women can do no wrong and men are evil.

Some of the greatest intimacy I’ve ever felt is when my female friends are vulnerable with me. When we have shared the parts of ourselves we’re insecure about and the parts of each other we’re jealous of— I have found so much intimacy and sisterhood in that. I don’t know that I necessarily need those conversations reflected back to me in media, but I understand why others may find value in the mere communication of that reality.

I've felt a repulsion from the Lorde remix of "Girl, So Confusing" by Charli XCX for the last couple weeks. I'm not sure why that is entirely. Maybe I just don't feel like I get that much out of listening to other women reflect the discussions I've always had. Representation in art is, after all, not necessarily the end point of "good lyricism." Thought I also think it's not telling me a particularly interesting story, except maybe in connection to the way older female writers have been crueler to me than anybody else. Certainly they're dealing with their own shit. I should be sympathetic. I should be kind.

Mostly I try to find understanding in female writers, especially those I know who are within 5 or so years of my age, who are successful and celebrated in ways I am not. I know any jealousy of them that I feel is born of the way I choose to conduct my career— whatever career I have— but it can be jealousy all the same. But I also know that my choices have led me to have the opportunity to publish many of their words, too, and it’s impossible to remain resentful in that position. As I learn more about them through social media or through essays they write I find my jealousy melting away just like when I’d talk to a friend about being jealous of her friend’s naturally thinner frame or when my friend from middle school would confront me about a passive aggressive post. 

I'm lucky to know the women I do. I'm lucky I grew up with so many women and was faced with confrontation and subsequent kindness and intimacy earlier than many people. I recognize I am privileged in these ways, but I hope young women are choosing specified closeness with the women around them over creating a surface level sense of self around an internet trend that is more about positioning yourself as morally superior to other women than actual compassion toward those other women.

I guess that's true of most internet identity markers, huh?

Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, podcaster and law school drop out based in Chicago. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram for more reminiscing on the year: @mirandareinert.  This blog does have a paid option and I would so appreciate any money you would be willing to throw me! You may also send me one time small bits of money at @miranda-reinert on venmo/on Paypal if you want. As always, thanks for reading!